Rick Dutrow listens intently to his attorney. Image by Skip Dickstein / Times Union.

Dutrow loses horse drugging suspension appeal but that won’t stop him

Rick Dutrow listens intently to his attorney. Image by Skip Dickstein / Times Union.
Thoroughbred trainer Rick Dutrow listens intently to his attorney Michael Koenig as he appears at a NYS Racing and Wagering Board hearing in Schenectady, N.Y. May 31, 2011, to determine his participation in alleged charges of use of performance enhancing drugs on horses under his care. (Skip Dickstein / Times Union)

I don’t know what I am more worn out with, reporting on medication violations in American horse racing or the industry’s failure to prosecute violators.

The trainer in question today thankfully is not Doug O’Neill. Instead the drug-induced public glare is focused on Big Brown trainer, Rick Dutrow. O’Neill must be relieved for it to shift over to Dutrow for awhile.

Tom Precious writing for The Blood-Horse reports:

A New York appeals court has unanimously upheld the revocation of trainer Rick Dutrow’s license by state racing regulators—a major setback for the colorful trainer’s ability to keep working in the state.

Just a day before the opening of the Saratoga summer meet, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court said July 19 the state Racing and Wagering Board’s revocation of Dutrow’s license was legally justified and based on a claim that he had “engaged in conduct that was improper and inconsistent with the public interest and the best interests of racing.”

That’s great I guess, but it is by no means certain to stick, as Dutrow has one last avenue for appeal and taking it will mean he can saddle runners at the upcoming meet at Saratoga. Sigh.

Precious continues:

Sources said the stay Dutrow obtained last year from a lower state court to delay his revocation period remains in effect until the Court of Appeals decides, or not, to hear his case. That means Dutrow likely, for the immediate time being, can still train horses for the Saratoga Racecourse meet.

Get the full story on Dutrow here >>

Dutrow’s stay of suspension is the same type that allowed O’Neill to saddle I’ll Have Another in the Preakness during the race for the Triple Crown. Not that this matters a whole lot. Trainers serving suspensions get their assistants to do the work while communicating their orders from behind the scenes.

Lou Pena. Image by J. C. Rice.
Lou Pena. Image by J. C. Rice.

But how about this guy? Because of all the media hoopla surrounding O’Neill’s horse doping history when I’ll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the Lou Pena suspension got little attention.

Tom LaMarra writing for The Blood-Horse reports:

A Standardbred trainer was suspended in New York May 24 for an alleged 1,700 equine medication violations after a joint investigation by New York and New Jersey regulators.

Lou Pena, one of harness racing’s most successful trainers by wins for the past several years, faces a hearing on the charges. The New York State Racing and Wagering Board said Pena “amassed a total of 1,719 equine drug violations in 675 races between January 2010 and April 2012.”

And look at the list of drugs in question:

The drugs Pena is alleged to have used in his horses are adrenocorticotropic acid, levothyroxine, and gonadorelin, which are hormones; betamethasone and flumethasone, which are steroids; clenbuterol, which aids breathing; cromolyn sodium and fircoxib, both non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; glycopyrrolate, known as Robinul; methocarbamol, known as Robaxin; and magnesium sulfate.

I knew I should have paid more attention in Chemistry class.

But how about this? That list does not include “substances being found in regulatory drug tests”. As stated, the drug infractions reported on were discovered instead through a joint investigative collaboration between New York and New Jersey racing authorities.

Get the rest of the story on Pena here >>

That, however, is not the end of the Pena story. Wait till you see what HarnessLink reported:

Five of the best harness racing trainers in the United States have told Harnesslink how they feel about the suspension and the over-all affect it could have on harness racing livelihoods.

They all believed they had to be even more thorough with their daily routines. New Jersey trainer Kelvin Harrison believed the NYSRWB had set a strong precedent with the Pena charges and now anyone was fair game.

“No-one is safe. If the officials want to get you they will get you. Lou has never been proven guilty. He’s winning and they can’t work out why. There’s no crime been committed here.

“Until there is one this whole case should be put to bed. Either produce the evidence or let the guy earn his living,” Chesterfield-based Harrison said.

While I do not agree with these trainers, I do agree with Teresa Genaro, author of Brooklyn Backstretch who says that Dutrow should not be singled out.

But this is not happening. Horse racing’s lack of enforcement regarding medication violations is a huge fail all year round, at every level. The behavior of trainers like Dutrow, O’Neill and Pena only get important media attention when a big headline can be made.

Read the full HarnessLink story here

Why do we bother covering this so much?

For many reasons, but among the most important that impact the horses are:

1. Side effects of prolonged use.
2. Pain-masking drugs compounding pre-existing injuries.
3. Breakdowns and death.
4. Rehabilitation and recovery time after racing (if they survive it all) hindering and sometimes eliminating their chances at a second career and life.

And that’s just for starters.

Bear in mind this issue is not simply about medication violations for the use of illegal drugs. Equine athletes in the US are drugged virtually their entire careers with a laundry list of “accepted” drugs, beginning in the shed and continuing throughout their training and racing lives.

10 thoughts on “Dutrow loses horse drugging suspension appeal but that won’t stop him”

  1. The easiest way is to check to see if your US Rep and Senators co-sponsored the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. Check here http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:S.1176:@@@P for US Senators; http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:H.R.2966:@@@P for the US Reps.

    Federal level (DC): If they have co-sponsored, they are against horse slaughter; if they have not co-sponsored, they do not support the bill banning it. If you are in doubt about it, call their office and ask them where they stand. If you write a letter or fax, you may not hear back in time. If you email them through their website you should get an answer.

    State level: You will have to telephone or email them to find out. If you do not hear right away, you may have to call or email several times. Keep at them. They are contacted a lot, and this is also an election year.

    US Congress recesses for the whole month of August. During August contact them at the closest district office near you in your State!

    You can go to your elected officials’ websites to find out where they are.

    You should also Google the names of your Reps and Senators with the words horse slaughter or horse processing to see if any articles pop up where they are quoted on this issue.


    1. S.1176 WE NEED TO GET BUSY !!!! DONT WE ???????
      Latest Title: American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011
      Sponsor: Sen Landrieu, Mary L. [LA] (introduced 6/9/2011) Cosponsors (26)
      Related Bills: H.R.2966
      Latest Major Action: 6/9/2011 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. COSPONSORS(26), ALPHABETICAL [followed by Cosponsors withdrawn]: (Sort: by date)

      Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Begich, Mark [AK] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Blumenthal, Richard [CT] – 6/15/2011
      Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] – 11/16/2011
      Sen Brown, Scott P. [MA] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Carper, Thomas R. [DE] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Collins, Susan M. [ME] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Coons, Christopher A. [DE] – 6/30/2011
      Sen Durbin, Richard [IL] – 7/18/2011
      Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] – 7/22/2011
      Sen Gillibrand, Kirsten E. [NY] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Graham, Lindsey [SC] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] – 6/13/2011
      Sen Kirk, Mark Steven [IL] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Lautenberg, Frank R. [NJ] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Leahy, Patrick J. [VT] – 12/6/2011
      Sen Levin, Carl [MI] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Lieberman, Joseph I. [CT] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Menendez, Robert [NJ] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Mikulski, Barbara A. [MD] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Reed, Jack [RI] – 7/19/2011
      Sen Sanders, Bernard [VT] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Schumer, Charles E. [NY] – 6/9/2011
      Sen Shaheen, Jeanne [NH] – 7/21/2011
      Sen Snowe, Olympia J. [ME] – 7/18/2011
      Sen Whitehouse, Sheldon [RI] – 7/6/2011


  2. I post these great discussions on social media sites as time permits and I think these are valuable articles to bring to others attention to the extent I can. This is a great service.

    As to the topic, if we want any changes made in any horse industry which may save horses and humans lives, it will have to come from outside the horse industry. The corruption, over-the-top arrogance and lack of any honesty whatsoever mandates investigation and enforcement from an outside agency with reporting duties to the federal government. Maybe then we will see fewer excuses in media for these abusers and offenders.

    As to the chances of having any reforms while horse slaughter continues as a business–unlikely. The Ag Committee played games and we are still trying to stop wholesale killing. Until Congress can deal with its refusal to stop encouraging horse slaughter as a cash cow, no reforms can be successful.

    As long as horses are disposable per special interest funders in Congress, there will be little interest in enforcing reforms. No one has to do anything as long as the horse industry can use and kill for cash. Gary Stevens was simply stating the truth. Racing has little or no incentive to act for reforms. It has never been a bastion of moral influence.

    Voters have to act and many are not making Congressional contact, as far as I can tell. Unless we all act as informed voters and force Congress to stop this breed for kill industry, horrendous acts will be standard operating procedure for the horse industry. Again, if killing is the final solution for their cast off athletes, why bother with supporting reforms? The cash is the persuader and horses are just one means of getting that money. Horses are being trafficked just like dope. Voters have to take these multiple issues seriously, act and persist.


  3. Heres where commonsense comes into play yet another time, Can anyone tell me that they would want these Men to train their Horses??????? What each one of these men did , is a direct blemish on every trainer who is on the up and up, using their skills to train and develop[ the Horses in their care ……………..I would find it hard to believe that any Horse owner would have anything to do with any of these so called trainers????????


    1. You can tell by the millions of dollars they make and the calibre of horses they are given to work with that the owners are just as bad and the dopers and cheaters; they have to know and therefore condone what they do. Or look the other way; don’t ask. That’s no excuse!

      I just saw that Dennis O’Neill bought a horse for UofL Basketball coach Joe Pitino who may be a Ky Derby prospect. Odds are he will want the horse trained by Doug. Surely after what he did to I’ll Have Another he won’t do it.

      Pitino likes to name his horses after his players. The one to watch for is called Russdiculous. http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/61241/pitino-sells-another-cardinal-themed-horse


      1. If I was Joe Pitino I would be taking another look at what would be training my living breathing Expensive Beauty…………… I must take my responsibility of being a Owner very seriously, i must realize only the upmost care must be given to what I am in charge of , that is a life !!!!!………….. I must involve myself with the every aspect of his or her well being !!!!!There is so much more involved then just a finish line !!!!!!!


    2. Let’s assume “these men” are the demons you characterize them as; there are no “Owners” who are demons? What do you think racing horses is all about, putting forth horses named “Skippy” to run around the park on a Sunday afternoon? Horse racing is about money. Most owners are suckers born every minute or criminals laundering their ill gotten gains or slave owning dictators of Middle Eastern satrapys. Granted there are some storied families and farms here and abroad who have some notion that the thoroughbred breed is much greater than the mundane banality of evil that day to day racing embodies but that is too much of “who are we, how did we get here and where are we going?”


      1. We are not demonizing anyone as their records clearly show. Horse racing as it happens in the US bears no resemblance to how horse racing is conducted elsewhere. There are many good, honest people in American horse racing but they do not hold the power. We want change for the horses involved; the people can take care of themselves.


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